Mario Kart TourSource: iMore

Best iPhones for gaming iMore 2021

If you're anything like me, mobile games aren't just a way to pass the time. They let us challenge friends, play online, and enjoy titles you won't find on other consoles — plus, with Apple Arcade, iOS users have a lot to choose from. That means you need the best iPhone for gaming and our top honor goes to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The A14 Bionic chip is powerful enough to run any mobile game, and 5G makes downloading a breeze. With 128GB of storage, you'll also have plenty of room for all your games. But it's not the only iPhone for gaming, and these are the top five.

Best overall: iPhone 12 Pro Max (2020)

iPhone 12 Pro Max reviewSource: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is Apple's latest phone, and it's one of the best they've made. Sure, the 6.7-inch screen is big, but if you're a gamer, you'll want the extra-large display that goes edge-to-edge instead of being interrupted by a large amount of bevel.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also features the A14 Bionic chip, which means it's ultra-powerful. While older iPhones feature chips made by other manufacturers, the A-series were made by Apple for Apple devices. It's the most powerful iPhone to date, and that'll come in handy when playing, downloading, and running large games and files. Experience less lag and enjoy more of the games you love without slowing down your phone, a critical detail for online games like, say, Mario Kart Tour.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has a lot of storage—enough for any mobile and iOS gamer. It starts at 128 GB of storage, but you don't have to stop there. For an extra charge, you can upgrade to 256GB or even 512GB. For context, the baseline Macbook Pro doesn't even have 512 GB of storage, so you know you'll be able to download and store all your games, and any save data they need.

If you're worried, all these features will drain your battery life, you can rest easy. Get up to 20 hours of video playback or 12 hours streamed with the rechargeable lithium‑ion battery. You can use regular wired or wireless charging, so juicing up is a breeze!

If gaming is the deciding factor when purchasing a phone, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is for you. It might be a little clunky for other uses, but the bright OLED display, the size, power, and storage make it a great option for anyone who wants to take full advantage of Apple Arcade.

Pros:

  • Powerful A14 chip
  • Lots of storage
  • Bright OLED display

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Big to carry

Best overall

Iphone 12 Pro Max Blue Hero

iPhone 12 Pro Max (2020)

Apple's powerful top dog

The 12 Pro Max shines compared to other iPhones in all categories, including power, display, and storage.

Best value: iPhone SE - 2nd Generation (2020)

Iphone Se 2020 HeroSource: iMore

Looking for power, pocketability, and gaming fun in a small package? Look no further than the iPhone SE (2020). At 4.7 inches, the smaller size is the real boon here because iPhone SE is easily tucked into a pocket, bag, or purse. You can take iOS games anywhere and still enjoy all the other functions of the iPhone, plus choose from fun colors, including a Product RED version.

This version of the iPhone SE still has an Apple-made chip, not one produced by a third-party manufacturer. The A13 Bionic chip is still more powerful than the previous version of the SE and will power almost every mobile game you'd like to play. Starting at 64 GB in storage, you'll also have plenty of room for games and save data; but you can go as high as 256 GB for an additional cost.

In terms of price, the iPhone SE is also the most affordable model. It's at least less than the iPhone 12 Pro Max depending on which version you purchase, but don't worry—the iPhone SE (2020) won't compromise on performance just because it costs less.

Pros:

  • Small, portable
  • More affordable
  • Apple-made chip

Cons:

  • Less powerful
  • Less storage

Best value

iPhone SE 2020 Prouct Red

iPhone SE - 2nd Generation (2020)

Tiny but mighty

What the iPhone Se lacks in size and power, it makes up in affordability and portability.

Best mid-range: iPhone 12 (2020)

Best Iphone 12 Battery CasesSource: Alpatronix

We get it; the iPhone 12 Pro Max is expensive—and big. If gaming isn't the only thing you want to do on your phone, the iPhone 12 is a great compromise because it's less expensive but still has many of the same benefits in terms of power and storage.

The iPhone 12 still has 5G for faster download speeds, as well as Apple's new in-house A14 Bionic chip. That means you can easily get the games you want and run them well. It's more powerful than the SE, but isn't quite as big and unwieldy as the Pro Max. Even with a smaller 6.1-inch screen, the edge-to-edge screen and bright OLED display mean you won't compromise image quality or graphics. Starting at 64 GB storage space, it's unlikely users who only use their phone for gaming sometimes will run out of space any time soon, although you can always upgrade space for an additional fee.

Compromise where you want it, power where you don't; the iPhone 12 is a great mid-range option for iOS gamers.

Pros:

  • More affordable
  • OLED display

Cons:

  • Less powerful
  • Less storage

Best midrange

Iphone 12 pro Pacific Blue Final

iPhone 12 (2020)

Compromise, just a little

The iPhone 12 has power, storage, and the display but without the heftiest price tag.

Best for kids: iPhone 12 mini (2020)

iPhone 12 mini gripped by one handSource: iMore

Kids usually want the latest thing, but we all know larger phones are more expensive and are easier to drop from small hands. The iPhone 12 Mini is all you've ever wanted in a tiny iPhone, and it's an update over the iPhone SE in power, too. Kids will love knowing it's a powerful gaming phone that still has Apple's A14 Bionic chip, but the small, 5.4-inch size means it's great for their backpack or pocket.

The iPhone 12 Mini still comes in all the fun colors you love about the regular-sized version, including Product RED, which raises money for a good cause. Your kids won't need to compromise on power or storage, which starts at 64 GB, so they can play all the Fornite their hearts desire.

Size, power, and a great display make this an excellent iPhone for gaming at a smaller cost than the larger iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

Pros:

  • Small, portable
  • More affordable
  • Fun colors

Cons:

  • Less powerful
  • Less storage

Best for kids

Iphone 12 Mini Green Select

iPhone 12 mini (2020)

Small hands, big gaming

The smaller size is great for kids, who can choose from fun colors, too. But the newest chip and storage options won't disappoint tech-savvy teens.

Best display iPhone 12 Pro (2020)

Iphone 12 Pro ReviewSource: iMore

If you're a serious gamer, the best display is probably top of mind for iOS users who love mobile games. The iPhone 12 Pro is a great option for you because the OLED screen is bright and readable, meaning your graphics and images will look stellar for any game you play. But at 6.1 inches, it's also a smaller screen than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so games will never feel stretched out or look like they're in lower resolution. It's not a compromise on size at all; it's simply a phone that prioritizes display and graphics.

The iPhone 12 pro still has the all-powerful A14 Bionic chip to run even the biggest and densest mobile games. Because it starts at 128 GB storage and has upgrades in storage for an additional cost, you can still purchase a phone with more storage space than some laptops. All those Animal Crossing Pocket Camp updates will have plenty of room, and the 5G connection means download times when you're away from wi-fi are no problem.

Pros:

  • Great display
  • More affordable
  • Smaller size

Cons:

  • Still pricey

Best display

Iphone 12 Pro Silver

iPhone 12 Pro (2020)

Bright, compact screen

All the power and storage of the 12 Pro Max, but the smaller screen prioritizes graphics and image performance.

Final thoughts

Choosing an iPhone can be overwhelming — there are so many options! But for gamers, the choice is clear. The overall best iPhone for gaming is the iPhone 12 Pro Max because it's the biggest, most powerful, and has the most storage of any other phone. Although it has up to 17 hours of video playback in the battery life, you can still use the charging stands to effortlessly charge your gaming iPhone and other accessories.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the right option for anyone who wants to prioritize mobile games, not just because of display and battery life. The 5G connection means less lag time, which is crucial for online games! Nobody wants to lose a round of Fortnite because of a bad connection. Plus, the extra-large display that goes edge-to-edge isn't broken up or interrupted by a curved edge or bevel.

I could go on and on about the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but I'll leave it here. It's big, it's powerful, and it looks great. It's everything a gamer would need, as long as you can swing the price tag.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author: Abby Lee Hood

Abby Lee Hood is a games journalist working on their debut nonfiction book. Find them on Twitter or their website.

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